Melatonin = Bad Parenting…??!

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Earlier this week, I jokingly stated the following on my Facebook Page: “Umm, my son has fallen asleep on the floor, wrapped up in a blanket. Anyone willing to come help me pick up my 100lbs ‘baby’, carry him up the stairs, and put him to bed? He’s in melatonin state. Anyone? Nope. Oh well, thought I would try. 🙂

Surprisingly, it sparked quite a bit of conversation back and forth. One person shared with us that she’s been called a bad mom for giving her child with Autism melatonin to help him calm down enough to sleep.

Whenever I’ve encountered that type of “feedback”, I calmly ask them how much sleep they got last night, the night before, and each night for the last week. Usually, they will say anywhere from 6 – 9 hours. I then explain to them that without melatonin, my son’s natural sleep pattern is he’ll finally fall down (and I mean literally fall down) and go to sleep around midnight (after an 8pm bedtime routine), sleep until about 2am, and then he’ll be up for the next day. Most times, it’s enough to stop them from questioning my family’s need for melatonin.

Other times, they will make the comparison between his sleep pattern and being the parent of a newborn. I will ask them how they felt when they had a newborn. Exhausted. Yes, and when did your child start sleeping through the night? Usually I get an answer of anywhere from 1 – 3 years old. I then remind them that my son is 8 years old and if it wasn’t for melatonin, he probably wouldn’t have slept more than a couple of hours per night since he was born…and without naps either. I’ve never had anyone question beyond there.

I personally always look at these types of conversations as an opportunity to raise awareness about Autism and special needs in general. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there are conversations where I’m tempted to lose my patience/temper and tell the person off, but I don’t…unless they are stopping me from ensuring my kids are safe, then all bets are off!

I just keep reminding myself that, when I was pregnant with my kids, EVERYONE had an opinion of what was best for me during my pregnancy, until I laughed and told them I was having twins. Rarely did anyone know what to tell me other than some distant person they heard of who had a horrible multiples pregnancy and birth. I would respectfully tell them that I didn’t want to hear about worse-case scenarios because if I wanted to focus on that, all I had to do was pick up ANY book about pregnancy. That’s the ONLY information out there – doomsday information about giving birth to twins.

Then EVERYONE had an opinion about everything baby-related: cloth diapers (nope), breastfeeding (yes…for a year!), immunizations (yes), baby carrying (nope), co-sleeping (sometimes), feeding routines (yes), strict bedtime routines (yes), etc.

Then EVERYONE has an opinion about preschool and school-ages: daycare (yes), work outside the home (yes…for a while anyway for me), homeschool (nope), after school activities (yes), have assessments done for potential diagnosis (yes!!!), etc.

I’m still confused by why people believe there is only one way to raise a family…their way.  The old saying “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is true. If your family is blessed with special needs, then you know what is best for your family; if your family is blessed without special needs, you still know what is best for your family. Why on earth would you be telling the other family how to best raise their family???

Everyone is an expert…in raising THEIR own family.

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6 thoughts on “Melatonin = Bad Parenting…??!

  1. Only someone who hasn’t witnessed the distress of either the mother or the child due to the autistic inability to fall asleep would dare to comment melatonin is wrong. My daughter is SO much happier now she can fall asleep, and it shows in her behaviour during the day too. She’s by no means an “easy” child (whatever one of those is 🙂 ) but she is a lot happier, and frankly so am I.

    PS I’d have been tempted to make my bed on the sofa rather than move him!

  2. My son is 4.5 years old and has started experiencing night terrors. He wakes about 1-2 hours after he has fallen asleep and calls out for mommy or daddy and then is crying so hard that he either dry heaves or actually pukes. He is sobbing uncontrollably for about 10-15 minutes. He is sweaty and his eyes are open but he does not really appear to be awake. Either my husband or I get him and carry him around the house with the lights on and say soothing things to him trying to get him to wake up . Generally this does not work and it just has to run its course. It is heart wrenching and exhausting for both our son and us. I have tried interrupting his NT by gently rubbing his back and getting him to change positions in bed about 1 hour after he goes to sleep. This seemed to work for about 3 weeks. But he has started having them again about 2-5 times a week. We are going to try ‘melatonin’ 1 hour before he goes to bed, as instructed by his pediatrician, and see if that gives him any relief. It is just soooo incredibly frustrating! We are also reinstituting NAPS as we have pretty much stopped them since May. He is a very happy and active boy and thank God he does not remember his NT when he wakes in the morning.

  3. There’s a fair number of studies that suggest that melatonin is very effective for this (see here: http://www.truthlyapp.com/popular?categories=autism%2Cmelatonin%2Csleep) I generally feel like it’s safe, as It’s a natural hormone, and I’ve taken it and the most it does is make me sleepy.

    The question is, what is it doing to our children’s dreams? I know when I take melatonin, I get VERY vivid dreams. I feel like those may be worse in our children. Wouldn’t want to cause nightmares for my son!

    • Honestly, I’ve never thought of the dreams he may or may not be having…I’m just glad it means my son can get more than an hour of sleep. His brain needs more than an hour of sleep per night.

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